WEST DEPTFORD – Jackson Clark expected that it would be his turn to take over as the starting goalie for the West Deptford High School boys soccer team by his senior season.
But it turned out Clark assumed that role a year earlier than was projected.
As a junior last season, he stepped in as a starter when then-senior starter Ian Kruithof was injured in the preseason. According to coach Steve Jakubowski, Clark did his part to fill the void.
“He really stepped up for us last year when our senior goalie got injured,” the coach said. “He played really well last year. We did give up a lot of goals, so it was kind of unnoticed.”
Armed with a year’s work of experience, Clark got his senior season off to a nice start Tuesday night. He posted a shutout in the Eagles 2-0 victory over Clearview in a non-conference game.
Afterward, Clark spoke about making the transition last season from a probable JV goalie into suddenly becoming the varsity starter.
“It was weird coming in, stepping in for Kruithof,” he said. “(At that time) I just wanted to work on my confidence, and my communication with the back line. Now I can talk to the back line better. We have a nice back five, and there is just better communication between us.”
This is a season in which West Deptford will field a team full of veterans. There are 11 seniors on the roster, and they have a lot of experience playing together.
“We have a big senior class, and we have a big, strong team,” Clark said. “From a young age we’ve grown up all together so I think our chemistry is really nice.”
With Clark anchoring the unit, Jakubowski thinks the defense will be the strength of West Deptford’s team this season. The entire back line is made up of seniors, including Jared Schultes, Vale Smith and Dan Tachdjian. Schultes and Tachdjian are team captains.
They have all been battle tested.
“Last year we had a young team and they took a lot of bruises,” Jakubowski said. “So this year we’re honing in and playing more together and our back line is doing a tremendous job. Our preseason was strong defensively and they carried it over into tonight.”
While the defense was holding firm, West Deptford broke a scoreless tie on a penalty kick goal by junior Luca Mingrino midway through the season half.
Mingrino did not start the game, playing behind seniors Kyle Whitehouse and Maguire Lyons, but Jakubowski says he has earned his minutes as a backup.
“He’s just a guy who is always so solid,” Jakubowski said. “Last year he came in to preseason unfit and it took a while before he improved himself to see minutes. This year he’s fit and he’s buzzing around doing different things on the field.
“We just felt it was his moment to finish it up.”
Mingrino learned from what he went through last season.
“I worked a lot harder in the off-season this year,” he said. “I knew that was my weakness, and now I’m just fighting for a starting spot.”
For his part, Mingrino didn’t expect to be the one chosen to take the penalty shot.
“I was a little surprised, but I went into it confident – stay composed,” he said. “I was originally going left, but I saw the goalie dive that way, so I switched on the fly, and luckily scored.”
Lyons added West Deptford’s second goal. With the Pioneers pushing up trying to gain some sort of offense in the closing seasons, Lyons fired from long range and it hit the open net at the final whistle.
West Deptford 0-2--2
Goals: Luca Mingrino, Maguire Lyons, Goaies: Jackson Clark, WD, Ronin Costello, C.